Hard News by Russell Brown

Not impressive at all

Well, we seem to be getting a bit closer to the precise nature of the threat posed by Ahmed Zaoui. Strike out "terrorist", "physical threat" and "means us harm" and put a ring around "might piss off the French".

As this Herald story notes, the Crown submission to last week's High court hearing talked of "not an immediate or direct risk or intended harm to New Zealand", but rather "actions taken beyond our national borders that may still have long-term impacts".

The alleged jeopardy, it appears, might be to the SIS's operational liason with the French secret service. It's apparent that our government is in a difficult position: it does want to cultivate a helpful big friend in the Pacific, but that same big friend happens to be quite matey with Algeria's thuggish military regime, which apparently would like to see Zaoui dead (so, for that matter, is the US). Spurning the advice of both French intelligence and a French court, even though it appears to be incorrect and politically coloured, might be seen as unhelpful.

Meanwhile, the principal harm being wreaked at the moment is to the reputation of the SIS itself. Having illegally videotaped a seven-hour interview with Zaoui on his arrival, the agency failed to tell the Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence, Laurie Greig of the existence of the videotape and now says that an hour of audio on the tape has mysteriously gone missing. Zaoui says he was mocked by officers during the interview. Now, his legal team is trying to get the tape. Would it be rude to observe that this becomes more of a shambles by the week?

The story of Bruce Simpson appears, regrettably, to be another case of unseemly behaviour in officialdom. For years, Bruce has written a near-daily Internet commentary column called Aardvark, and he popped into the headlines when a reporter noticed his project making a homebrewed cruise missile based on a pulse jet engine he had developed himself.

He says he was about to sign a major deal with an American company to develop the pulse jet when - while he was out of the country - he was bankrupted by Inland Revenue, effectively wrecking the entire project. He admits to losing control of his tax affairs for a while, but he has made every effort to make good in recent years, and there's enough detail in his account of the saga to suggest an Inland Revenue vendetta against him. Bruce summed up the sorry tale on Friday - or you can read it blow-by-blow starting from last Monday's chapter. I don't entirely know what has happened here, but it seems nasty, unacceptable and a sorry waste of this man's talents. I sincerely hope that someone on the political front will take an interest.

Anyway, a copy of the new Dimmer single 'Getting What You Give' arrived first thing this morning, by courier. It's a limited edition mini-CD (and the courier was mini-sized too - nice touch!) featuring the slinky, supple title track (horns by Fat Freddy's, backing vocals from Anika Moa) and Gary Sullivan's video. But why does the AIFF file name and the CD database info in iTunes come up as 'You've Got a Way' by Shania Twain? Is there something we should know?